On 16 November St John’s was delighted to host alumna Angela Eagle MP in conversation with Professor Kate Nation, at Church House in Westminster.

Angela studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St John’s, matriculating in 1980, the second year that the College admitted women. She has since gained prominence as Labour MP for Wallasey, a seat which she has held since 1992, and as Minister of State at the Department of Work and Pensions, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Shadow Leader of the House of Commons, Shadow First Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. 

Angela Eagle MP alumni talk Nov 17In Kate and Angela’s illuminating discussion Angela spoke about the importance of encouraging women to play an active part in politics, civic life and trade unions. Her parents taught her and her sister that there was nothing they couldn’t do, and she was later further inspired by the example of Barbara Castle. Parliament, an institution created in the total absence of women, may be difficult to change, but there is nothing, she says, to hold women back.

On higher education funding, Angela shared that she would have been discouraged from attending university by the current situation, and that she led the resistance to the introduction of tuition fees, but she thinks that the huge rise in the percentage of the population attending university necessitates some change in the funding structure. On the issue of widening access to universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, Angela emphasised that there is always more that can be done, by reaching out and countering the caricatures about what Oxford is like.

Angela is currently writing her first book, The New Serfdom, on evolving democratic socialist principles so they remain relevant as society and the economy changes. She emphasises the importance of an interconnected and societal response to new challenges, and of developing a more ethical economy. 

Being an MP, she noted, is a vocation. Politicians are ordinary people, who want to help and represent their communities. To succeed it is important to be able to get your beliefs across. In essence, you have to be yourself.